Victoria Public Transport ‘failing’ to cater for commuters with disabilities, report finds

Asia-Pacific, September 5 2011

The study by the Victorian Council of Social Service highlights what it claims are “critical breakdowns” in transport infrastructure that make parts of the system inaccessible to everyone from mums with prams to elderly shoppers or commuters with disabilities.

Welfare advocates called for significant changes to the way public transport is planned and implemented across the state.

Alleged failings of the system highlighted in the study Creating Accessible Journeys include:

  • TRAIN stations built without ramps;
  • UNEVEN train and tram platforms making it impossible for many commuters to board by themselves;
  • LOCKED toilets with disability access at train stations;
  • MAKING people requiring wheelchair access book places on trains and buses when other commuters don’t have to;
  • RAISED platform tram-stops that no accessible trams go past

The report specifically criticised what it claimed was bureaucrats focus on ensuring isolated public transport infrastructure was compliant with accessibility standards, while ignoring how the various pieces fit together.

VCOSS CEO Cath Smith said the result was access was denied to a wide range of wheelchair users or people struggling with luggage.

“Accessible public transport is not for ‘other people,’ it is for all of us,” she said.

Ms Smith said if a journey did not provide a continuously accessible path from beginning to end, then it could not be used, regardless of how many pieces of compliant infrastructure exist along the way.

“It is time for a radical overhaul of the way public transport planners think about accessibility and design for an adapatable and multi-use system that can cater for a wide variety of people and purposes that are likely to change over time.”

Opposition Transport spokeswoman Fiona Richardson acussed the Baillieu government of slashing programs to improve access to public transport by 75 per cent.

“For those entirely dependent on the public transport network to meet their transport needs, the decision by the Liberals to slash funding by over $60 million is a cruel blow indeed,” she said.

“The Liberals should try spending a day in the life of an elderly people or commuters with disabilities to appreciate the impact of their decision to slash funding to disability access.”

Transport Minister Terry Mulder hit back at claims the government was short-changing commuters who struggled to access the network.

He cited initiatives including plans to build 26 new accessible tram stops, the arrival of 50 new low floor trams by the end of next year and the establishment of a Station User Panel to ensure train stations were better designed.

“This will provide 24 hour easy access for elderly people or commuters with disabilities , mums with prams and travellers with heavy suitcases,” Mr Mulder said.

“The Coalition Government is vigorously acting to ensure that our public transport is accessible.”

A Transport Department spokesman said the state government was committed to providing an accessible public transport system for all Victorians and was working closely with the operators to improve connectivity and accessibility across all modes.

The department pointed to additional funding of $16 million allocated in the May Budget to improve access to railway stations over the next four years.

The Victorian Government and transport operators are also required to comply with the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT), and meet the compliance targets it established.


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